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TCPI News Vol. 1, No. 7

May 7, 2001

In this issue:

  1. Survivors at Work
  2. Interviewing and the Law, Part 2
  3. Meetings--More or Less?

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1.     Survivors at Work

The news is dour everywhere you look: Forbes' Body Count for May 3, 2001 is at 368,030, which is listed in blood-red numerals against a grainy depression-era photograph of a bread line; The New York Times reports that unemployment is up to 4.5 percent in April; and first-time jobless claims have risen to their highest level in more than five years (, 5/3/01).

But what about the survivors? "These are the people who are left after the rest have gone. They have special needs and concerns, and their view of reality has been altered forever," write Dr. Marvin Gottlieb and Lori Conkling in their book: Managing the Workplace Survivors: Organizational Downsizing and the Commitment Gap. "In a sense, managers who are charged with the task of dealing with survivors are survivors themselves. So, many of the feelings and concerns attributed to the workers can be easily shared. The problem is to move beyond feeling, sharing, sympathy, and the like toward a plan of action that moves these survivors from where they are to something better-both for themselves and for the organizations they work for." (p. xii.)

The transitional period immediately following reorganization is marked by specific challenges for the manager:

The manager of survivors must understand the three key aspects of the survivor mindset to be able to lead after reorganization.

  1. Survivors distance themselves from the company, replacing a sense of corporate loyalty with a focus on personal security.
  2. Survivors must do more work with fewer resources creating resentment.
  3. Survivors often feel both a sense of guilt for keeping their jobs while feeling like the "unlucky ones" left to clean up the mess.

"Survivors of organizational downsizing are subject to the same trigger for change as the victims. This change evokes feelings which are at once positive and negative about the self and the organization: fear and hope, relief and anxiety, loss of meaning and new meaning, a threat to self-esteem, and a new sense of value." (p. 7.)

In order to weather the storm the survivors must:

More information on Managing the Survivors.


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2.    Interviewing and the Law, Part 2

DISCLAIMER: TCPI does not render legal advice or services. The information provided here is a guideline only. TCPI takes no responsibility for the usage of this information. Employment legislation may vary from state to state. For specific legal advice the reader should consult a legal professional. For information on the federal legislation regarding discrimination in the workplace visit the EEOC.

A recent article in USA Today reports the probability rate with which plaintiffs are winning employment lawsuits has risen sharply from 49% in 1994 to 71% in 1999. Some experts contend that this increase is due "to workers' increasing awareness of employment law." (Stephanie Armour, "Workers Win More Lawsuits, Awards," USA Today, April 13, 2001.)

How well do you know employment law? Thank you to the TCPI News readership for their responses to our Legal Interview Question Quiz published in the April TCPI News. We listed ten interview questions and asked our readers which questions could legally be asked in an employment interview.

We had seven responses that ranged from "they are all illegal to ask" to the correct response from Lorna Williams, a graduate student in the HRD program at Xavier University and Manager of the Information Division at the Public Library of Cincinnati. Congratulations, Lorna, you will be receiving a free copy of Dr. Marvin Gottlieb's book, Interview.

From our list, the legal questions are the following (numbers refer to original list in April newsletter):

2) Describe a work situation where you made an error. Any questions relating directly to job performance are fair game. A favorite question of interviewers, this question allows the candidate to demonstrate honesty, responsibility, and the ability to learn from mistakes.

3) How do you plan your daily activities? Again, asked in reference to the job, questions about organizational skills are to be expected.

5) Were you in the military? Candidates may be asked about serving in the US armed forces, the branch of service, and the rank attained. However, it is illegal to inquire about military service in a country other than the U.S., the type of discharge, or to request military service records.

6) Why do you want to leave your current position? A common question asked to help ascertain the candidate's feelings, needs, appropriateness of candidate's skills for the job, and how both the current job and the job being interviewed for fit into the candidate's career goals.

9) What would your last supervisor say about your performance? This question gets at not only the candidate's view about his/her performance, but also the working relationship he/she had with his/her supervisor.

The following questions from our list are illegal:

1) Tell me about your children. You may not ask about the number or age of children or how they would be cared for while the candidate is at work. That would be in direct violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The US Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Federal laws prohibiting job discrimination.

4) That's a lovely ring, are you engaged? Marital status is not directly related to employment and may not be asked (again Title VII violation).

7) Your name sounds Greek, were your parents Greek? Questions about a candidate's parents' national origin are prohibited, as are questions about parents' place of employment or residence.

8) Would it be a problem to work for someone younger than you are? This question is inappropriate since it hints that the candidate's age might be an obstacle to good job performance. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects candidates who are 40 years or older from age discrimination.

10) Has stress ever been a problem for you? This indirect question can be either a veiled inquiry into the candidate's psychological well-being or it may suggest that stress had an adverse impact on the candidate's performance.

An illegal query asked indirectly is still illegal. Also, indirect questions, especially when the subject matter is inappropriate, only leaves the candidate wondering about the interviewer's true intentions.

"The sole purpose of interview questions is to analyze a candidate's fitness for a job," writes Hardy Caldwell in his article, "Don't Go There: Questionable Interview Questions."

There are a number of helpful lists of legal vs. illegal questions available. See these sites:

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More Information

See our custom programs page for more information on our selection interviewing program and other customizable programs.

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3.     Meetings -- More or Less?

Are we spending more time in meetings than ever before? The answer may be: it just seems that way.

If we look at managers as a subcategory of the organization and ask how much time they spend in meetings, we see the significance of meetings to the organization as a whole. Several studies have been done over the last 30-40 years that indicate the time spent in meetings is remarkably stable and large.

While there are now many general studies of managerial behavior and several suggestions on time management strategies, empirical studies of how managers spend their time are relatively limited in number. Titus Oshagbemi, using an intensive literature search employing the facilities of the Institute for Scientific Information Social Sciences Database, found only a total number of 64 publications on the subject for the 13 years between 1993 and 1981.

A further study using the Social Sciences Citation Index (from the Institute for Scientific Information Social Sciences Database) on "managerial time" and "time management" as key words or words in the title, yielded additional studies. However, many of the studies do not contain empirical data of how managers spend their time.

A summary of the average percentage working hours spent by selected managers on various activities reveals that managers spend about half of their total working hours in meetings. This could be periodical, pre-arranged, or emergency meetings between managers or between managers and non-managers, occurring within or outside organizational premises. For details see the Oshagbemi study (http:///

A 1998 study of UK businesses commissioned by MCI WorldCom Conferencing and carried out by Research Business International, finds the typical busy professional attends nearly 60 meetings a month, of which more than 10 percent involve travel out of town. A similar study by networkConferencing in the US concurs, "Meetings in America: A Study of Trends, Costs and Attitudes Toward Business Travel, Teleconferencing and Their Impact on Productivity," finds the typical busy professional attends more than 60 meetings a month. If we assume that the meetings averaged 1-2 hours, the more recent studies seem to agree.

If there is a phenomenon more aligned with current organizations, it is that more unscheduled meetings are taking place. From the available studies, the percentage working time spent in scheduled meetings was generally higher than the working time spent by managers in unscheduled meetings. However, the number of the unscheduled meetings was usually higher than the number of scheduled meetings.

In some studies, there were remarkable differences between the percentage scheduled and unscheduled time spent in meetings. In one study, for example, 59 percent of the total working time was spent in scheduled meetings while only 10 percent was spent in unscheduled meetings. In other reported studies, however, the differences between the time spent on scheduled and unscheduled meetings could be very small. One study reports 22 percent scheduled and 20 percent unscheduled meetings.

The discrepancies in these findings suggest that there are other determinants such as organizational culture or even the type of business that govern the frequency and types of meetings. A law firm may have a preponderance of scheduled meetings, while a team of programmers at a high tech company may require frequent unplanned interactions. With so much time being spent in meetings, substantial gains in time and productivity could be realized by managers using procedures designed to reduce the number and especially the duration of meetings.

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Are you looking for ways to be more productive?

Read Getting Things Done in Today's Organization: The Influencing Executive, by Marvin R. Gottlieb (Quorum Books, 1999). This book is written for front-line, middle, and senior level managers, training, and other human resource professionals who need the cooperation of others in order to get their jobs done.

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